25 December 2012

Sudan: Russia Seeks Compensation for Pilots Killed

Juba — Russia is seeking compensations to the families of the crew of the United Nations-leased Russian helicopter mistakenly shot down in South Sudan on December 21.

South Sudanese army, SPLA, shot down the UN helicopter in the troubled state of Jonglei, killing all the members of its Russian crew, an incident both UN Secretary General Ban ki-moon and the Security Council strongly condemned.

Ki-moon also urged Juba to investigate the incident and hold those responsible accountable.

"We will be watching closely the progress of the ongoing investigation and press for efficient measures to be taken to ensure the security of air traffic in South Sudan," Vitaly Churkin, the Russian ambassador to the UN told Voice of Russia.

The Russian envoy insists the local military command had allegedly been informed by the UN officials about the planned flight and that the helicopter had been promised complete security by the South Sudanese.

However, the SPLA spokesperson, Philip Aguer, told Reuters their forces opened fire on the helicopter because they had no information from the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) about its presence in Pibor where a rebel group is operating.

"We saw a white plane landing and asked UNMISS whether they had any flight in the area but they denied it. The army opened fire because it thought it was an enemy plane supplying Yau Yau with weapons," he said.

We later heard UNMISS had a flight there. They should have informed us, Aguer added.

Meanwhile, UNMISS, on Monday, held a memorial ceremony at its Juba headquarters, where a minute of silence was observed for the four-crew members killed.

Hilde F. Johnson, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General (SRSG) for South Sudan also read out the names of the victims during the ceremony. They included, Pilot in Command Ilin Sergei, Co-Pilot Abrakov Alfir, Flight Engineer Egorov Sergei and Flight Attendant Shpanov Nikolai.

South Sudan's deputy Defense Minister, Majak D'Agoot represented government at the event.

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